Gary Lee

Professor, MB ChB N.Z., PhD UWA, FCCP, FRACP, FRCP

  • The University of Western Australia (M503), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth

    Australia

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Personal profile

Biography

Professor Lee is a recognised world leader in translational pleural research. His published work has challenged and disproved decades-old conventional practices, save lives, cut morbidity and costs, and improves QoL in many aspects of pleural diseases, informing patient care worldwide.

Graduated from Otago University, Professor Lee completed his respiratory training in Auckland and Perth when he recognised the knowledge gaps and shortcomings of conventional pleural care.  Supported by a Fulbright Scholarship, he conducted his PhD work at Vanderbilt University with Prof Richard Light on translational research of pleural fibrosis. Upon winning consecutive Wellcome Fellowships, he spent seven years in Oxford and London, UK when he began developing his own research group.

He was recruited to UWA in 2009 where he set up Southern Hemisphere’s first pleural program at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital. His clinical and laboratory training allow him to bring together clinicians, scientists and allied health colleagues to build a unique integrated program, known for its novel ideas and for challenging traditional teachings with vigorous scientific approaches.

Professor Lee’s sustained high research output over the last 25 years produced 300+ publications (70+% as first/senior author; H-index 59; total citations >11000; 30+ papers >100 cites) including 10+ papers in NEJM, JAMA and Lancet group journals.  His work has been cited in more than 10 international/national clinical practice guidelines, directly impacting clinical care.

He has published six books including three editions of the Textbook of Pleural Diseases (the leading & most comprehensive pleural reference text) which has won the British Med Assoc Best Respiratory TextAward.

His achievements have been recognised by the award of the Research Medal of the Thoracic Society of Australia & New Zealand (2021) and of the Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (2016), the Researcher of the Year (2019) by the Cancer Council WA and the Eric G. Saint Memorial Award (2021) by the Asbestos Diseases Society Australia for service and dedication to asbestos sufferers.

He has helped inspire global acceptance of Pleural Medicine as a new subspecialty, and has been instrumental in developing Pleural Medicine in Australasia and the Asia Pacific through collaborative projects, lectures, workshops, and training fellows/next-generation researchers, ensuring future progress.

Roles and responsibilities

Professor of Respiratory Medicine, UWA
Director of Pleural Services & Consultant Chest Physician, Respiratory Dept, SCGH
Head, Pleural Medicine Unit, the Institute for Respiratory Health

Funding overview

Professor Lee is currently a MRFF Practitioner Fellow, and has won NHMRC/MRFF Fellowships as well as project grants from NHMRC, Cancer Australia, Dust Diseases Board, Cancer Council WA, WA Dept of Health, Sir Charles Gairdner RAC, MRC UK, Wellcome Trust, HK Lung Foundation etc. He is a member of the NCARD NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence.

Previous positions

Editor, Respirology (official journal of the Asian Pacific Soc of Respirology)

Head of Department, Respiratory Medicine, SCGH

Clinical Co-Director, Institute for Respiratory Health

Consultant & Senior Lecturer, Oxford University and Oxford Ctr for Respiratory Med, UK

Senior Lecturer, University College London, UK

Fulbright Scholar, Vanderbilt University, USA

Current projects

Professor Lee’s pleural program uniquely integrates clinical care (one of the busiest pleural service in Australasia) with clinical and bench research to address patient-focused questions with unique platforms developed (below). The program has a range of active laboratory and clinical projects focusing on the diagnostics and treatment of common pleural conditions, especially infection (pleurisy) and pleural cancers.

Features of Professor Lee’s pleural program include:

A) Building and leading the Australasian Malignant Pleural Effusion (AMPLE) clinical trial network including Australasian and Asian centres, establishing the group as a leading hub of pleural research with established Clinical Trial Infrastructure: research fellows, trial/data managers, statistician, databases. The clinical trials arm has successfully delivered many studies including the practice-changing AMPLE-1, and -2 trials as well as ongoing novel studies eg STOPPE and AIR.

B) A bidirectional bench-to-bedside research pipeline. Well-phenotyped biospecimens from his clinics contribute to the world’s largest pleural biobank (Prof J Creaney). Discovery of novel therapeutic targets from his lab’s molecular and animal work have been tested in phase II clinical trials led by his clinical team.

C) Building the first multidisciplinary allied health research team in pleural disease and brings together researchers including pathologist, pharmacist, dietician, exercise physiologist, clinical psychologist etc.

Teaching overview

Professor Lee has delivered 300+ invited lectures in pleural diseases in over 100 international and national scientific meetings in 32 countries, including all major respiratory conferences and many prestigious institutes (eg Oxford, Imperial, UCL, Hopkins, UCLA etc) on topics covering both basic and clinical science.

He has organized 10+ pleural courses/workshops in Australia (include for all respiratory trainees) and has been a key faculty to another 25 courses in 10+ countries especially in Asia Pacific.  

His world-renowned pleural fellowship program in SCGH/UWA has trained over 20+ clinical/research fellows from 9 countries including advanced trainees from Oxford and Cambridge UK. Many of them have returned to their home state/country and set up the first pleural services throughout Australia and in NZ, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia etc.  He has inspired 10+ high-quality clinicians and scientists (current/completed) to undertake PhD in pleural diseases.  

Successes of his fellows include winning over $3.8M in scholarships from NHMRC, WA Cancer Palliative Care Network, European Respiratory Society and Dust Diseases Board etc and over 100 publications including first-author papers in JAMA, Lancet Resp Med and leading respiratory journals. Recent clinician PhD graduates have won NHMRC Early Career Fellowships (Fysh, Thomas) and the allied health PhD graduates have been appointed to academic posts (UWA Pharmacy & Curtin Dietetics). Many graduates of the program have built their own clinical/research pleural groups.

Research

Professor Lee’s integrated pleural program has delivered high-quality randomised trials and translational research, replacing decades-old unproven practices with evidence-based care, esp in pleural infection and malignant pleural effusions.  He has fostered a strong clinical/lab network with 525 published collaborators (14 countries) in the past 10 yrs.

His other contribution to the broader field of research include an active role in peer-reviewing, having refereed for 55 scientific journals and for many universities as external review for academic promotions. He has served about 10 times on Grant Review Panels for NHMRC and Cancer Australia as well as reviewers for national grant panels in NZ, UK, Canada, USA, France & Hong Kong. He has served as the Editor-in-Chief of Respirology and on editorial boards of Respirology, Journal of Bronchology and Interventional Pulmonology, Journal of Thoracic Diseases, Current Pulmonary Reports and Respirology Case Journal etc.   

Research expertise keywords

  • Pleural disease
  • Respiratory medicine
  • Mesothelioma
  • Empyaema

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